The Arctic sea ice is melting at a staggering rate, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that between 1979 and 2018, there was an average loss of 12.8 percent per decade. Scientists have now warned that as the ice melt is due to man-made climate change, there will be no quick-fix in getting the ice levels back to their former strength.
A new study analysed the shells of quahog clams, which can live for hundreds of years, to examine how the Arctic ice has changed over the past 1,000 years.
The team from the University of Exeter wanted to see if the ice changes were forced – by volcanic eruptions or variations in the sun’s output – or if they changed as part of a natural pattern.
The research showed that in at least a third of the past variations were “forced”, which proved just how sensitive the climate system is and how it makes it difficult for the ice to recover.
Study lead author Dr Paul Halloran said: “There is increasing evidence that many aspects of our changing climate aren’t caused by natural variation, but are instead ‘forced’ by certain events.
“Our study shows the large effect that climate drivers can have on Arctic sea ice, even when those drivers are weak as is the case with volcanic eruptions or solar changes.
“Today, the climate driver isn’t weak volcanic or solar changes – it’s human activity, and we are now massively forcing the system.”
Co-author of the study Professor Ian Hall, from Cardiff University, said: “Our results suggest that climate models are able to correctly reproduce the long-term pattern of sea ice change.
“This gives us increased confidence in what climate models are telling us about current and future sea ice loss.”
Global warming is contributing to a loss of ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic circles and researchers believe Greenland could be one of the worst effected.
The ice covering Greenland is up to three kilometres thick in certain places, covering an area seven times the amount of the UK.
If all of this ice were to melt, it would cause sea levels to rise by a staggering seven metres, which could have major implications for the UK.